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February 17, 2012 

Three Years into Obama’s First Term, Pressure to Politicize Science Persists

Updated Analysis Finds More Work Needed to Defend Science from Commercial Influence

The federal government is moving closer to protecting scientists and the integrity of its science-based decisions, but more must be done to protect the policymaking process from corporate influence, according to a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists today.

The report, Heads They Win, Tails We Lose: How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense, chronicles the most common ways that corporations influence how science is used to make policy, from restricting the effectiveness of federal agencies to corrupting the scientific work itself.

Released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference in Vancouver today, the report details the extent to which inappropriate corporate influence on science has prevented the United States from using the best available science to protect public health and the environment.

“While many believe that political interference in science went extinct when President Bush left office, the reality is that the pressure to politicize science is still with us,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity program. “Many companies are prioritizing private gain at the expense of the public good, and abuse science to achieve their goals.”

The report includes detailed examples of the tactics corporate interests use, including harassing federal scientists, ghostwriting scientific articles to undermine federal research, and undermining how science is used to form agency policy in the name of “reform.”

The analysis is an update to UCS’s 2008 report Federal Science and the Public Good, which laid out an ambitious template for Congress and the White House to restore scientific integrity to federal policy making.

The new report documents several steps the Obama administration has taken to stem the tide of corporate influence. For instance, they have instructed federal agencies to adopt new scientific integrity policies and adopt some additional transparency measures.

Despite these efforts, the new report concludes that further and more expansive reforms are needed to ensure federal policies and regulations are based on the best available science. The report recommends that the White House and Congress adopt comprehensive protections for government scientists who report political interference in their work and enact greater transparency in the policymaking process.

“President Obama has put us on a path forward, but the journey is far from over,” said Grifo. “Fully neutralizing the problem of political interference in science will take persistence and the engagement of both government and the private sector.”

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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